Jacinta Gitahi

The STEM-designated Master of Science in Applied Quantitative Finance program led Jacinta Gitahi to a full-time job in her industry of choice

In 2022, Jacinta Gitahi was living in her home city, Nairobi, Kenya, working as a finance and operations officer. After a decade-long career in Kenya, she started to get the itch for more.

“I felt there was nothing more I could have done in Kenya for my career,” she said. “That is when I started thinking that maybe I should go back to school and that will help with my career advancement. I just felt like if I continued staying back home, nothing would change.”

Gitahi began investigating programs abroad focused on science, technology, math and engineering (STEM), which would offer a three-year Optional Practical Travel (OPT) work authorization, rather than the usual one year. In her research, she stumbled upon the Daniels College of Business’ Master of Science in Applied Quantitative Finance (MSAQF) program and applied.

The MSAQF combines theory with hands-on experience. It’s also highly customizable, allowing every student to shape the curriculum to fit their needs and career aspirations.

Even before she made the move to the United States, she began job hunting in the hope of finding an on-campus opportunity. Though she didn’t immediately find a placement, she did start building connections and exploring resources—a skill she would hone and maximize over the next couple of years.

One of Gitahi’s first stops in Denver was an on-campus career fair. Though she was nervous to explore job hunting in an entirely new environment, she pushed herself to attend.

“It was very intimidating at first because you are trying to get a job, but imposter syndrome kicks in and you question whether you are good enough for the jobs. You don’t know what happens in the U.S. or what they’re looking for,” Gitahi explained. “On the other end, you’re like, ‘If I don’t go to this career fair, I might not get a job.’ So, you just have to brave it and just go.”

From that experience, Gitahi made connections and started to get the hang of a new job market. Ultimately, she got a job as a graduate assistant in Daniels’ Graduate Student Services office. That role would end up being incredibly influential for Gitahi, as it exposed her to a wealth of resources, events, tips and helpful people that would prove invaluable in her future job search.

As part of her role, Gitahi attended many of the career-building workshops, talks and events held by the Daniels College of Business. While working, she also had the opportunity to absorb a wealth of advice and understanding, from how to write an American resume to updating her LinkedIn profile to be more attractive to potential employers.

“It exposed me to a lot of the skills I didn’t know I was lacking,” she said, noting that she relied heavily on the Daniels Career Services team that she grew close to in this role. “This is because you are coming from a different context, and you need people to hold your hand as you adjust to a new point of view.”

One of Gitahi’s greatest assets in furthering her own knowledge around job searches was the Reiman School of Finance Mentorship Program, which she heard about through her new network. The program matched her with Johnny Russell, a Daniels alumnus and wealth advisor at Peak Asset Management.

“I feel like it was a way for me to test the waters,” Gitahi said. “It cuts your work in half because you are working with someone who’s already done it. So, instead of you trying to figure everything out by yourself, why not get help from someone who’s done the same thing?”

Russell was able to offer advice on which classes to take and where her career might lead, as well as what kind of jobs and internships to explore. Gitahi’s first U.S. job outside of DU was as a finance intern at the International Rescue Committee, where she got hands-on experience for five months before summer rolled around and Russell suggested she pursue a paid opportunity.

Gitahi pulled together her exceptional skills, DU’s resources and the network she’d formed to land a part-time opportunity at Parsonex, a family of companies that offers financial products and services to investors. After the summer ended, Parsonex invited her to stay on for the next two quarters, during which she worked during the day and took classes in the evening.

From there, she was offered a full-time job—one where she feels like she has the opportunities and resources to continue growing and developing as a financial expert and as a person.

“This was the best news I received in a while—to see all the work I had put in result in a full-time job in my field of study,” she said. “I feel like where I work, they invest into their employees. And at the end of the day, I’m becoming a well-rounded person. It’s not just getting a paycheck.”

Gitahi’s advice for others looking to find the same kind of opportunity and growth—especially international students—is to take advantage of all the possibilities life might open up for you.

“Have an open mind and be ready to start from scratch and just learn as much as you can,” she said. “Network, network, network. Talk to people in the career office and International Student and Scholar Services. … DU has a lot of resources to help with the job search, and the best part is that they want to see you win, too.”

Discover More About the Master’s of Science in Applied Quantitative Finance

In the highly customizable one-year, STEM-designated Master of Science in Applied Quantitative Finance program, you can build your skills in a wide variety of corporate finance, asset management and investment banking courses, as well as special topic electives. You’ll graduate ready to lead in the financial field of your choice. 
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